Have you ever wondered how lefty talking head Eric Alterman can possibly argue that the media is biased to the right? Well, his latest column in the Daily Beast provides a pretty good window into his methodology—moving the goalposts so far that even covering certain conservative candidates is an act of journalistic malpractice.
Alterman spends most of the piece mocking Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for a series of historical gaffes, suggesting that any presidential campaign by “an individual so obviously mentally and emotionally challenged” would be a hopeless “exercise in vanity and self-delusion,” which the press is only wasting its time by covering:
Michele Bachmann is “reportedly” ready to form a presidential exploratory committee in early June. Shame on me (and this website) for paying the slightest bit of attention to this foolish and ridiculous spectacle, but here we are […]
What does it say about our national media that this woman is considered a serious person? What is she doing being taken seriously on Meet the Press? Why in the world does ABC’s George Stephanopoulos think it important to find out whether she’s a fan—I kid you not—of Lady Gaga?
And how can any reporter expect anyone, anytime to take him or her seriously if they treat the “Bachmann for President” boomlet as anything but a symbol of a political system that has run itself off the rails of sanity?
If a history of stupid remarks disqualifies a politician from serious coverage, then how does Alterman explain the media’s slobbering love affair with Barack Obama, who’s got his own record of gaffes? Or maybe his running mate, Joe Biden?
To be sure, a candidate’s grasp of history is fair game for judging a would-be president, but the task of journalists is to judge who is running, not who should run. And like Bachmann or not, her potential bid for the presidency is a legitimate story, and she can’t be ignored.
Bachmann is a three-term member of the US House of Representatives who won her most recent re-election by twelve points. She speaks for one of the newest, most potent movements in contemporary politics, the Tea Party. And in Gallup’s most recent poll on the 2012 Republican field, Bachmann ranks higher than more “serious” or “respectable” candidates, including Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Indeed, Alterman’s Beast colleague Howard Kurtz offers several valid reasons Bachmann could surpass expectations, not the least of which is her being the most likely recipient of Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee’s votes, should the two choose not to run.
In arguing that Michele Bachmann isn’t newsworthy, all Eric Alterman has really established is that he doesn’t want her to be newsworthy. Beneath the pretense of a call for more rigorous media standards, Alterman’s true goal is the political weaponization of media coverage to shut out politicians he doesn’t like. After all, if Bachmann really is a mere crackpot, then an open airing of her views and record will prove it. What is Alterman afraid of?